It was Wednesday afternoon. The skies darkened the closer I got to the fair grounds. Small drops of rain quietly pattered on the windshield, barely enough to warrant the use of the wipers, but visible nonetheless. I had forgotten my directions. I tried to vaguely recall which parking lot I was supposed to aim for; which building I was supposed to enter.
Of course, I picked the wrong one.
The clock was ticking. We had been asked to arrive ten minutes early to prepare for our shifts. A woman at the gate advised me that I would have to walk around the outside of the entire fair to get to where my complimentary passes lay. With a glance at my watch I knew I would never make it. The raindrops grew fatter, now splattering on my opened umbrella. Back to the vehicle I went to find another parking space. Hopefully.
I shouldn’t have worried about parking. Weather forecasts had predicted heavy rain all week. The morning had been bright and sunny, but as I parked yet again, those rays were now a memory. I hugged my umbrella closer to my head. My feet were wet before I stepped inside the building. But I made it with a scratch of time to spare.
The quest now was to find my entrance pass. The jangle of slot machines beckoned, but I had sworn to help out. I was to meet Christine Siemens, CLC Tree Service’s Office Manager, at the ReForest London booth in the Community Showcase wing to hand out free tree seedlings. If only someone was at the help booth to direct me. Just as I was losing hope of arriving before my allotted hour, a woman with a trusty walkie-talkie appeared. She swept myself and another tree volunteer directly to our station for the afternoon.
And there were the trees.
There were Hackberries and Choke Cherries, White Pine and White Spruce. Three kinds of Oaks (Burr, White and Black) lined the shelves, plus some Sugar Maples too. A sad little Ohio Buckeye was tucked in a corner that nobody could see, but the trees, there were plenty. And they were all free.
For three hours we stood smiling and handing out trees. The people were scarce due to the weather, but pleased as all can be.
“Free?!” many remarked as we nodded our heads.
Just take them and plant them, and count them as well. You see, we had purpose, and not just to smile. The point was to raise awareness of London’s Million Tree Challenge. The trees are a great gift to take home, but their gift lies more-so in giving back to London in droves. Each tree planted helps to reduce carbon dioxide and air pollution, improve water quality, lend aesthetic appeal and emotional well-being to businesses and neighbourhoods, plus even save you money.
And we were giving them away for free!
So while the rain discouraged many fair goers, the brave few who ventured out got the lovely gift of trees. Mr J proudly noted that the trees him and his wife were taking home would join many others that he had received in previous years from ReForest London’s generosity. And the sweet little sugar maple that another couple walked away with made a fitting first anniversary present for them. As they walked away, I heard her exclaim as she hugged her hubby, “We have a tree!” That joy was why we were there in the first place.
And CLC Tree Services not only had representatives at the booth on Wednesday (Christine was there Monday too). They also proudly sponsored some of the seedlings to boot.
So as I waded back to my van in knee deep water at the end of my shift, I hugged my own Black Oak seedling tightly to my chest. I promise to plant it, water it and record it on the Million Tree Challenge site. It was my payment for a few hours of my time and I know it will pay me back in droves.
If you want a tree seedling of your own, ReForest London will be at the Western Fair until Sunday, September 14th, 2014 handing out FREE tree seedlings to anyone who promises to love them. Get yours before they are gone!